Skip to main content
HIE STOK&Y NORTH iff
in the monotony of the machine age. However, fcFuu and Games'
is shorter and, in fact, more to the point, particularly in the ^forth-
West Frontier. For the Frontiersman has never had any machine
age to react against; the only machine which remotely concerns
him is his rifle ; and he glories in this, not for the beauty of its
mechanism but because it is an enchanted rod which affords him
the only means of self-expression which he knows. And men must
express themselves, in one way or another, by pen, plough or
pistol; otherwise they perish.
6May I have a month's leave, sir, to go and murder my cousin? *
Perhaps the question is not phrased quite so bluntly, but that i&
the gist of many earnest requests which are put to British officers
by their Pathan troops in these parts.
"The word for '-cousin" is the same as the word for "enemy" in
the Pushtu dialect,' said my friend. '"What's an officer to do when
he gets asked that sort of question ? Usually it's the best soldiers
who have the bitterest feuds. Supposing I say, "No, you damned
well can't have leave; you'll stay here and do an extra drill for
having such naughty ideas'*. - .what happens? The man just
deserts, taking his rifle with him. And that means another good
man gone, and another sniper to worry about on dark evenings/
"Don't the Pathans respect any sort of moral code ?*
'Good Lord, yes.. .though I suppose you'd call it a code of
honour rather than a code of morals. It's best expressed in three
words : nanawaiai, melmastia, and badragga.. .asylum, hospitality
and safe-conduct. If a man breaks any part of that code, he's not
a true Pathan. As for the women, their lives are probably the
strictest and cleanest in the world. A Pathan can put his wife to
death for adultery, and very frequently does.'
'But oughtn't we to stop that sort of thing ?'
* Stop it ?' He laughed, somewhat sardonically. 'Stop it ? How?
What with ? A standing army of a million ? A Gestapo of half a
million ? Is that what you suggest ? If so, I can tell you who'd
win. And it wouldn't be the army or the Gestapo.'
As he spoke, I remembered the faces of the foor murderers who
had been fellow-inmates of the hospital to which I was so shortly
- destined to return. (You may remember that we met them in the
first pages of this book.) It was the night-nurse who first mentioned